Tyler Gets 41

FORREST CITY, Ark. -- This Thanksgiving weekend Tyler Hansbrough and his Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High teammates are starting off their season with an appearance at the Rumble on the Ridge.

After his first ever head-to-head battle with LSU bound Tasmin Mitchell on Thursday, Hansbrough got his motivation from a surprising place before taking on hometown Forrest City High during a Friday night semifinal tilt.

Prior to taking the court, the future Tar Heel watched Jackson (Miss.) Lanier scoring machine Monta Ellis go off for 54 points and new he had to step up his game.

"When I saw Monta drop 54, it was in my mind to try and beat it," said Hansbrough. "It didn't happen, but I was thinking about putting up big numbers, I had to put up big numbers."

Even though he didn't quite match Ellis' explosion, the six-foot-nine inch forward had a monster game of his own going for 41 points (12-20 FG, 17-19 FT) and 16 rebounds during a spectacular low post effort.

Undersized, Forrest City came out in a collapsing box-and-one designed to limit the touches that Hansbrough -- who has now bulked up to 245 pounds -- was able to get in the post. For a quarter it was successful as they held him to only two points on a pair of free throws.

In the second quarter, Poplar Bluff made some adjustments as Hansbrough flashed high, received the ball and then reversed it before diving down to the low block and sealing his man. The swarming defense still limited his open looks, but Hansbrough was able to get to the free throw line and finished the half with 13 points and six rebounds.

"I felt really good, I felt real competitive," said Hansbrough. "I felt like they needed me to step up and really play in the second half, so I did."

During the second half Hansbrough finally saw some man-to-man defense and he quickly went to work exploiting it. He scored on short jump hooks, tip dunks, open court jams, and several nifty moves from close range while continuing to get to the line. His relentless and physical attack was simply too much for the locals and before the final buzzer he'd added 28 points and 10 rebounds to his first half numbers.

Hansbrough might have liked to show what he can do facing the basket, but he's committed himself to causing damage in the lane first.

"I'm working on my strength a lot and it's really helped me down low," said Hansbrough. "I think I really need to work on my shots and that wasn't there tonight, but I think it will come around when I go to play for Roy Williams."

Saturday evening Hansbrough can expect another test in the championship game of the Rumble as he and his Poplar Bluff teammates take on a very talented Bolivar (Tenn.) Central squad featuring emerging class of 2006 big man Wayne Chism.

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